Notes On Colour Mixing


Those of you who are visual artists may have an on going difficult relationship with colour mixing. There are so many things to know and so many of the colour mixing books around make it far more complicated than it should be. I would like to share some facts with you that may be affecting your results, which you may have no idea about.
Some of the following facts are also about line and shape.

  • Contrasts intensify each other.
  • Hues next to each other will make the complement of the other colour appear to a certain extent e.g.  if red and yellow are next to other the yellow will appear slightly greener (green being the compliment of the red) and the red will appear slightly more violet or purple (purple being the compliment of yellow).
  • When you have a spot of grey on a red background, the opposite or complimentary of the colour  will be induced, thus making the the grey appear greenish.


There are as many opinions about black as there are artists in the world I suspect. To forget about black altogether is like leaving  an important ingredient out of a recipe simply because you don’t like it. Like all the other colours, black too has its place.

  • Black makes colours placed next to it appear brighter and if  it totally surrounds the colour the colour will also appear bigger than it is. We can often see this effect in stained glass windows.
Red squares on black and white

Red squares on black and white

  • Observe how the red square on a white background appears smaller and duller than the red square on the black ground even though both squares are the exact same size and value.

We can mix a black with other colours such as Viridian and Cadmium red or Pthalo blue and Burnt Umber.  These blacks will always give more life to your painting than a black straight out of the tube as you can vary the amounts of each colour to give your black interest.


This week’s question: How do you use black in your work, if at all? If not would you consider adding it to your tool box ?

Last week I was discussing the artistic device of contrast in relation to not only art but Life in general.

Contained within contrast is the idea of balance or harmony, the harmonious interaction of sometimes opposing forces, flavours, or things in contrast. Harmony/balance may be achieved in any number of ways, although in art the most balanced visual arrangement of pieces is not necessarily one where the pieces are equally balanced.  Balance more particularly often brings to mind the figure of justice holding her equally balanced scales.

Justice With Sword And Scales

Justice With Sword And Scales

In art however harmony is often achieved by a counterbalance of something small in a larger opposing area, perhaps a complimentary colour or shape. how do you bring harmony into your Life, your Art.

Blue trees

Blue trees counterbalanced with orange light

We can apply these principles to our lives as well. Often we think we are required to do something big to get noticed.  But is that true?  What are we all seeking…… connection, recognition, love, joy, happiness?  What are the things that truly delight us? Often it is something small – that touch of red in a green painting  – a bunch of flowers given unexpectedly, a hand written card posted in the mail for no special reason.

Bunches of Flowers

When was the last time you created delight in your life with a small act of harmony?

Pix Credits: Justice, Flower Bunches

Blue Trees: Painting , Kadira Jennings

Continuing on with Monday’s thoughts, I’d like to share some observations on the similarities between life and design concepts.

One particular aspect of this is the creative element of contrast.  Our world is filled with contrast – light-dark, soft-hard, rough-smooth, sweet-sour, etc. as through the senses, life vibrates inwards. Life without contrast can be bland, tepid, boring, flat.

Flat Tyre

Life Can Be Flat

Of course too much contrast can leave us feeling quite the opposite.

Roller Coaster

Too Much Contrast

Therefore we need that other design element to counteract either ends of this scale and that is balance or harmony.

In Art, as in Life, we create harmony often through a counter-weighted balance of opposites.  Hence the term – ‘add a little spice to your life’.

In green paintings, a tiny splash or two of red (the complimentary or opposite colour to green) creates interest and life that would otherwise be lacking.

  • Where do you need more or less ‘spice in your life or art work?’
  • How might you use contrast to achieve this?

Pix Credits – The Morgue File – Life Can Be Flat, Too Much Contrast

Get Adobe Flash player